Cargo bikes are advertised as the replacement of motor vehicles, in some scenarios, in response to the global climate crisis. But not everyone can afford cargo bikes. While human-powered transport of cargo has been popular, and essential, in many countries it is a novel idea in Canada. In the vicinity of London Ontario the financial standing of many inhabitants has polarized; some becoming richer while others poorer. For the poor and homeless the transportation of their personal cargo is essential and creative ways of transporting it have evolved. Observations of how its citizens transport cargo, using their own motive power, needs to be understood if cycling and its infrastructure is to be successfully implemented and increased. Issues of control, balance and need for additional space need to considered. The following photos provide some insight into some of the more common methods of cargo distribution in London.

One common method is to use a bicycle to pull a grocery cart, as demonstrated in the two photos below.

A surprising occurrence is that some cyclists are observed pushing a second cycle, as shown in the two photos below.

Several observations have been made where cyclists have been carrying large bags of cans. These are typically beer cans and are hauled to a local alcohol distribution facility that pays cash for each can. The cyclist shown below was observed travelling through the busy intersection of Wellington Road and Bradley Ave in south London.

In the following photo the cyclist is carrying beer cans through a beer store parking lot but also other materials including a bicycle wheel. How did this rider safely, and successful, ride from his destination to this location? This takes substantial concentration and space in which to travel. How would such a cyclist operate within the narrow confines of some cycling lanes?

A common method of cargo carrying is by attaching bags to the handlebars of a bicycle, as shown in the two photos below.

Where a cyclist cannot afford to buy a mini-trailer a substitute such as a golf cart can be an efficient solution, as shown in the photo below.

Even though a bicycle may be available the device carrying the cargo may be too difficult to manage while riding. Thus the cyclist must dismount as shown in the example below.

Cargo carrying is not always done legally. In the example below a male is riding the wrong way on a four-lane expressway. Fortunately a construction zone behind the rider has protected him until a point where the zone no longer exists. Then riding next to the fast lane and next to the median, the rider becomes exposed to highway speed traffic. What was the cyclist’s motivation for this action? This is an important question to ask.

As shown below there are some mini-trailers that were not originally sold as mini-trailers. Note in this case that the cyclist is also carrying additional cargo across the bike’s handlebars.  This requires additional space yet the lane is already narrowed by snowbanks.

When cycling is not possible some pedestrians load up their cargo in anything with wheels and then push. Several examples are shown below.

 

In other countries the transportation of cargo in large bins is not uncommon, but has been rare in Canada. Yet, as shown below, these methods may become more common as the convenience of a motor vehicle becomes an unaffordable luxury to some. Yet this bin is much wider than a typical bicycle and the pedestrian will be pushing it at a much slower pace. What interference is this likely to cause with other users of a sidewalk or cycling path? This questions are important to consider.

The construction of new cycling infrastructure is hoped to inspire drivers to leave their carbon-emitting motor vehicles and ride human-powered or pedal-assist bicycles. As shown in the above photos, the enticement for greater use of cargo bicycles may not just increase the numbers of official cargo bikes. The enticement may also generate the use of unofficial methods of transporting cargo, either using a bicycle or through other means. This may have an effect on road safety.

The City of London is in the process of constructing a number cycling lanes. Facilities that it dubs “cycling tracks” are narrow and provide minimal opportunities for cyclists to exit the track. An example of such a track is shown below, located on Dundas Street just east of downtown.

Measurements indicate that this cycling tracks of 1.5 metres wide. This width may be suitable for a typical bicycle which may be 65-70 centimetres wide across the handlebars. However, observing the photos above, there are many instances where cargo-carrying cycles, or other instruments of human-powered transportation may be much wider than a typical bicycle. As these cycle tracks become utilized by more cyclists there will also be an increased use by the non-standard transporters of cargo shown in the previous photos. What will happen when a cycling track becomes clogged by a slow-moving, transporter of cargo, such as a pedestrian pushing a loaded cart? Such a pedestrian should not be within the cycling track but how will that prohibition be enforced? What will a faster-riding cyclist do when encountering such a slow-moving cargo carrier? In motor vehicle scenarios a motorist has options to pass another slower moving vehicle. But will that be so easy within a cycling track? Will cyclists attempt to steer out of the cycling track and onto the lane occupied by motor vehicle traffic? Given the narrow gaps between the concrete curbs many cyclists will have to slow down and make a sharp steering motion to the the left. But that steering motion will cause the cycle to travel further into the lane than if the motion could be done within a longer gap. Thus will cyclists end up steering into the path of motor vehicles? Such complications cannot be recognized without detailed data from on-site observations. Those municipal agencies that simply document cyclist volumes will fail to recognize that there are important details in cyclist characteristics and motions that need to be considered if a sufficiently safe cycling environment is to be achieved.